Foam Debris Surprises, Disappoints Shuttle Crew

The crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery was "very surprised" to learn that foam debris had come off the shuttle's external fuel tank during liftoff Tuesday, Commander Eileen Collins says.

Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins and Mission Specialist Andrew Thomas

Commander Eileen Collins and Mission Specialist Andrew Thomas grant interviews Friday while orbiting Earth aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. NASA TV hide caption

itoggle caption NASA TV

* Video courtesy of NASA TV

"We were very surprised to hear that a large piece of foam had fallen off," Collins said. "Frankly, we were disappointed that it happened."

Collins and Mission Specialist Andy Thomas spoke with NPR's Michele Norris as they and the rest of the crew orbited the Earth. They admit some concern about the foam that fell from the Discovery's fuel tank on liftoff. Collins says there's no significant damage to the shuttle, though the crew will look at specific sites with cameras and lasers to get a better idea of the orbiter's condition.

In Depth

Space historian and Morning Edition commentator Andrew Chaikin answers questions about the challenges facing NASA and the shuttle program, and the future of manned spaceflight.

And Collins points out that an unprecedented amount of care is being taken to inspect the shuttle to make sure it is safe to return to Earth at the end of the mission. She says her more immediate focus is on carrying out Discovery's mission — including a spacewalk that's scheduled to take place Saturday.

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